It’s a long road to becoming a product that’s sold on the shelves of your local Whole Foods Market. Sometimes, even longer if you plan on being given the honor of a local producer whose product is carried nation wide.
I heard from a Whole Foods Local Forager (yes, that is a totally real, totally cool job title) stories of small product makers who would load up cars or campers & travel across the country, visiting as many stores as they could, to get their products into as many markets as they could. While there have certainly been a lot of miles logged for Abi & Andrew of Pacha Soap this story isn’t exactly about that.
This story is one of determination, love, unwavering faith, charity… and of course, dirty hippies.
I first met Andrew & Abi from Pacha Soap at a local Whole Foods event in Omaha. I was familiar with their product & knew a little about their mission, but meeting them was something different. Like meeting celebrities who don’t quite know they’re famous. I kept side eyeing them, trying to decide when I’d casually swing over to say hey. They were clearly oblivious to my awkward social endeavor.
Abi has this huge smile that lights up her whole face & the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen, especially when she’s watching Andrew. They fill up with love & admiration & the most sincerest form of pride. Not only does she handle all of their photography & social media, she also does all the design work for their products.
Andrew easily finds himself weaving you into a story about any one of their monumental undertakings – whether figuring out where he projects their company’s future, the daily tasks of making soap in their Nebraska factory or how the people in Burundi, Africa operate their productions there without electricity. You can tell he’s always thinking, always solving, always eager to do more.
It’s at this point you start to sheepishly remember you’re wearing over priced shoes because the lengths Andrew & Abi have gone to make not only their dream come true – but also the dream of so many others in developing countries is – for lack of a better word – BIG. Really big. It is truly their passion.
After my first conversation with the duo, I was quite absorbed. I told them, while I didn’t know how specifically to help or what I could do (other than continue to add to the extensive Pacha soap collection I’ve been hoarding) to support them, I would do anything I could, should they need it.
Andrew & Abi have that infectious ability to make you care so much about a place of the world you’ve never seen, nor likely will ever see, & about the people they’ve entrusted themselves to empower.
Empowerment is a pretty common word these days. As well as sustainability. You’ll hear them thrown around in conversations from activists to PTA moms. People know these words but they’re used so often the meanings can begin to blur.
Andrew & Abi use those words in the most earnest way. They intend to integrate every element of a social enterprise on an economic level so it’s able to move past charity or aid & on to development by creating opportunities for people to have employment in developing nations where unemployment is so high & the average national income can be around $200 a year, per person. They’ve also taken note of places where soap ingredients can be sustainably sourced locally.
When Pacha soap first began out of Hastings, Nebraska, their mission was simple – Raise the Bar. Not just in soap production but also raise the bar in how business is being done, specifically social enterprise. For every bar of soap purchased here in America, one bar of soap would be not only given away to the community they are working to support in Burundi, Africa but it would also be produced there. Andrew feels very strongly about moving past charity or aid saying, “Aid will not fix the issue but development can, over a long period of time, from the grass roots level“.
From January 2015 to now, the local soap makers in Burundi have made over a quarter million bars, averaging 40,000 bars a month, that go straight into the hands of school children around the community of Kamakara. And remember, they do that there without electricity.
Andrew tells a story of being at a school in Burundi where a little boy asked him, through a translator, Ok, we have soap, now what about clean water?
That encounter inspired them to create a way to give people access to fresh water with their new campaign, Pump It Up.
In December, Whole Foods Market gave them the opportunity to turn their dreams & their dreams for so many others into reality when they awarded Pacha soap a local producer loan worth $100, 000. With this money, they’ll be able to expand their Pump It Up campaign to have an even bigger impact.
Part of their mission statement is to help with water, sanitation & hygiene through education & donation & that’s where Pump It Up comes into play. For every purchase of liquid soap here in America, 100 gallons of clean water is given to people in need, as well as careers for local well drillers in developing nations. And clean water is essential in a country where lack of clean water, sanitation & hygiene results in 4500 children’s deaths every day.
They’ve been able to join with Oklahoma public charity, Water4, who helps to create sustainable water wells for the local population.
Pacha soap has taken the one for one model a step further. Yes, they are happy people like me can use our dollars to purchase with purpose. But by doing so, people here in America have the ability to support a company who offers more than just aid. They are offering people sustainable ways to support their own communities while doing dignified work that expands way beyond each individual. And making some rad soap for consumers to be proud to purchase.22